If you've tried to hire anyone to work on your house lately, you already know that most of the nation seems to be on a remodeling binge, upgrading or otherwise improving the housing stock.

Drive down any block in the neighborhood and you're likely to see a work crew or a work truck or a lawn sign that promotes the company doing the job.Getting the house in shape is its own reward for many homeowners. An extra room, a new kitchen, an upgraded bathroom, new windows, doors or deck or even a good paint job - all these improvements can add pleasure to family life on a daily basis.

Most of them also cost a bundle. To ease the pain, you're probably saying to yourself as you sign the check, "I'll get some of this back when we sell the house."

That can be a risky assumption. If the improvements make your house the most expensive in the neighborhood, you probably won't recoup the costs. If you have to sell during a recession or a housing glut, you'll have to lower your price. If your improvement is stylishly up to the minute, it may be out of date by the time you sell.

Still, on average, you can expect to get at least some of your remodeling money back at the closing table. According to Remodeling magazine, the project that yields the best return is remodeling the kitchen selectively.This project, which costs about $8,400 on average nationally, would include new cabinet doors, oven and cooktop, laminate countertops, sink, faucet and floor and new paint. The magazine estimates this project would return its entire cost and a little extra for your trouble - 102 percent.

If you overhaul the kitchen completely - redesign, custom lighting, built-in microwave and center island - you would recoup 90 percent of the cost on average. But the cost itself is a much higher $22,500.

The second most cost-effective remodeling job is adding a bathroom to a house that has only one or one and a half baths. This project, requiring an outlay of $11,700 on average, would add $10,800 to the house's value, Remodeling estimates.

Perhaps you want to hold your costs to $10,000 or less. Here are the projects that Remodeling magazine says will add most to your resale value for such an expenditure. If your house doesn't need any of these improvements, at least they'll give you an idea of what kind of outlay to expect for your own project.

These figures are from Remodeling's 1997-98 Cost vs. Value Report, as cited in the National Association of Home Builders 1998 Housing Facts, Figures and Trends. Costs likely will be higher in expensive cities where demand for remodeling is high right now. Count your blessings if the costs in your area are lower.

- A minor kitchen remodeling. This is detailed above and almost always is a good idea since buyers focus heavily on kitchens and are turned off by those that are outdated, dingy, cluttered, dark or inconvenient.

- Remodel a bathroom. Attractive and expanded bathrooms are popular. You can get a new tub, toilet, vanity, medicine cabinet, lighting and tile for about $8,500. Expect to recoup approximately $6,500 in a resale.

- Add a deck. For $6,000, you should be able to get a 16-by-20-foot deck of pressure-treated pine, including a built-in bench, railings and a planter.

Addition to resale value: $4,300.

- Replace siding. For about $5,000 you can get 1,250 square feet of new vinyl or aluminum siding or trim. You'll recoup $3,500 of that when you sell.

- Home office. For $8,200, convert an existing room into an office with custom cabinetry and rewire for electronic equipment. Obviously, this improvement would not appeal to all buyers, but it could make the sale in some instances. Addition to resale value: $5,600.

- Replace windows. Get 10 new 3-foot-by-5-foot aluminum-clad windows with trim for $6,000. Most new windows are double-paned and lift out or tilt in for easier cleaning. Expect to recoup about $4,000 of your cost.